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Tom Morrison

Health and Fitness Data for Water Activities

July 13, 2010 —
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults engage in at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic physical activity each week. Recommendations for children age 6 to 17 are even higher: at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous activity each day.

Yet according to the CDC, only one-third of American adults regularly engage in some kind of physical activity, and the prevalence of childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past three decades—to nearly 20% among children age 6 to 19. The warm and sunny days of summer provide an excellent opportunity to try new outdoor activities, or spend more time engaged in old favorites. Wolfram|Alpha can perform useful computations for many popular summer water sports, including fishing, water skiing, and sailing. By adding time and/or body weight to these inputs, you can tailor the calculations to your own physical measurements and activity schedule:

For queries about activities such as swimming and rowing, you can now incorporate other variables about speed and pace, along with age and physical measurements:

In addition to basic information about calories and fat burned, the amount of oxygen consumed, and the metabolic equivalents required for the activity, Wolfram|Alpha also computes estimates of working heart rate and heart rate reserve.

Below the “Heart rate pod”, Wolfram|Alpha generates an “Equivalent activities” pod that displays the amount of time it would take to expend the same amount of energy performing other activities. Within the “Speed” and “Pace” pods that follow, you can click “Show comparisons” to see how your predicted performance measures up against various world records. Below the “Pace” pod, there are “Distance” and “Time” pods followed by the “Performance prediction” pod. Using Riegel’s endurance model, this pod displays the predicted time, speed, and pace over standard swimming race distances.

For rowing computations, you can also specify an experience level, which takes into account the efficiency of body movements as well as the metabolic processes of the rower. You can add experience into the equation by pressing the orange “experience” link located below the basic input fields, or by using natural language input:

Rowing calculations in Wolfram|Alpha

We invite you to consult Wolfram|Alpha for tailored results following your next aquatic workout. What’s your favorite water-based activity for staying fit and having fun during these lazy days of summer?


I love the “equivalent activities” pod. Is there a way to see a comprehensive list of what activities are including in this? For example, I’m surprised to see that “planting seeds” is included. Very interesting comparisons!

Posted by Andrea Gerlach July 13, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Hi Andrea, There’s no way to directly compare activities yet. Wolfram|Alpha randomly selects the activities that appear in the “equivalent activities” pod. However, any given individual activity is directly accessible through a query such as “planting seeds”. Thank you for the question. Please let us know if we can provide you with additional information.

    Posted by The Wolfram|Alpha Team July 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm

This is pretty cool to see! One thing that could improve it is if you accepted (and displayed) the sport’s standard way of keeping track of rowing speed: split time/500 m. For example, if I rowed 2000 m in 7 minutes, that would be a 1:45 split. However, this is already a pretty nifty resource.

Posted by rower July 13, 2010 at 10:14 pm

The amount of oxygen consumed, and the metabolic equivalents required for the activity, Wolfram|Alpha also computes estimates of working heart rate and heart rate reserve. That’s very good information. Thanks for this nice post.

Posted by Physical Therapy Supplies November 20, 2010 at 4:12 am